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Election briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 23, 2000


Harris to open office Sunday

TALLAHASSEE -- Secretary of State Katherine Harris' office will be open for business Sunday, meaning Florida counties will have a court-ordered 5 p.m. deadline to present their presidential vote returns for certification.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Tuesday night that any amended returns from the counties must be filed by 5 p.m. Sunday, if Harris' office is open, or 9 a.m. Monday if not.

Clay Roberts, director of the elections division, said Wednesday the office would be open Sunday. The decision narrowed the window of time for returns to be counted in three Florida counties where hand recounts were under way when the court ruled.

Roberts said it would take the three-member election canvassing commission about two hours to certify the final vote after the returns from all 67 counties are filed.

ABC News outlines projection guidelines

NEW YORK -- While ballot recounts continued Wednesday, ABC News announced guidelines meant to avert the sort of faulty projections it made with other networks giving Al Gore, then George W. Bush, Florida's 25 electoral votes in the presidential race.

Citing Election Night's two blown calls -- both of them ultimately retracted -- the announcement lists changes that include projecting a winner in a race only after all of the polls in the affected state, rather than just a majority, have closed. It also specifies that ABC's own independent analysis must bear out the data provided by Voter News Service before a call is made.

The internal review was headed by Kerry Marash, vice president of editorial quality, said ABC News president David Westin said.

"We thought it was our responsibility to move promptly and prudently to understand better what happened Election Night," Westin said, "and to do our very best to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Other networks have said they are conducting similar examinations of what went wrong.

ABC reforms also include heightened efforts by on-air personnel to explain that, in Westin's words, "calling a race is not the same as declaring a victor -- it's making an informed estimate."

Bush won't seek Wisconsin recount

MADISON, Wis. -- George W. Bush will not request a presidential election recount in Wisconsin, where an unofficial tally shows he lost to Vice President Al Gore by more than 5,000 votes, campaign chairman Don Evans said Wednesday.

"The race there was indeed close, but Gov. Bush will do his part to help bring this election to a conclusion," Evans said.

With all 72 counties reporting, Gore defeated the Texas governor by 5,697 votes in one of Wisconsin's tightest presidential races ever, according to an unofficial Associated Press tally. It found, 1,243,036 votes for Gore and 1,237,339 for Bush.

Nader says coin flip is best solution

DENVER -- Ralph Nader has a simple solution to the stalemate in Florida: Toss a coin.

"It sounds kind of arbitrary, but I'm not joking," the Green Party candidate told the Denver Post. "There's really no other way to end this. At this point, no one's ever going to know who really won Florida."

Ideally, a team of nonpartisan volunteers should recount votes cast in all Florida counties, Nader said from his office in Washington, D.C. He admitted that would be impossible before the Dec. 12 deadline to certify a winner.

"It's razor close, and the margin of error is bigger than the margin between them," he said. "Whoever wins is going to have half the nation against them. It's going to leave a bad taste in the American people's mouths."

Ergo, bring in Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore and flip the coin.

The ceremony, Nader said, could be broadcast across the globe, and the two parties could sell time for commercials to raise enough money to finance their presidential campaigns in 2004.

Gore's son pleads guilty to speeding, fined $125

CURRITICK, N.C. -- The 18-year-old son of Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore was fined $125 and ordered to pay court costs after pleading guilty Wednesday to speeding.

Albert Gore III, a high school senior, was arrested Aug. 12 while driving home to Washington after a family vacation on Figure Eight Island. He was charged for driving 97 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Gore pleaded guilty under an agreement with prosecutors. A reckless driving charge was dropped.

The judge in the case also temporarily suspended Gore's driving privileges in North Carolina for a time to be determined by the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

The younger Gore did not speak during the court proceeding. He was accompanied by his uncle, Frank Hunger, the vice president's brother-in-law.

Final House contest won by New Jersey Democrat

TRENTON, N.J. -- In the nation's last undecided U.S. House race, incumbent Democrat Rush Holt narrowly defeated Republican Dick Zimmer for New Jersey's 12th District seat, final tallies showed Wednesday. Zimmer said he expects a recount.

Holt's lead grew to 672 votes after Mercer County announced its final unofficial vote. Mercer was the last of the five counties in the district to do so.

The two candidates divided slightly more than 291,000 votes -- Holt had 146,106 to Zimmer's 145,434, according to the unofficial totals. The state Division of Elections will certify the results Dec. 5.

Washington Senate race headed for a recount

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Democrat Maria Cantwell edged Republican incumbent Slade Gorton by fewer than 2,000 votes after the final numbers were tallied Wednesday in the nation's last undecided U.S. Senate contest. An automatic recount will begin Monday.

"This long journey has come to a spectacular conclusion," said Cantwell spokesman Ellis Conklin. "We're ahead, and we're going to win."

Gorton's camp did not concede.

"We still have a long process ahead of us and at this point, we're trying to be optimistic," said spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman.

After more than 2.4-million votes were cast in 39 counties, the race was extraordinarily close. Cantwell had 1,199,260 votes, of 48.7 percent, to 1,197,307, or 48.6 percent, for Gorton -- a difference of 1,953 votes.

Under Washington law, a recount is automatic when an election margin is less than 0.5 percent, which would be about 12,000 votes in this case.

Secretary of State Ralph Munro said a recount would begin Monday and take about a week to complete. He said no recount in recent state history had reversed the outcome of a certified vote count.

Commercial adding to the recount craze

After minting campaign commercials, Madison Avenue recasts the presidential race for corporate customers. Burger King ads brag that the Whopper "is chosen by 3,574,857 people every day. (No recount necessary.)" Dairy farmers update their "Got Milk?" campaign by noting milk has "9 essential nutrients. . . . We recounted them just to be sure," and a full-page ad for Apple Computers sporting the nefarious butterfly ballot notes: "Never underestimate the power of Design."

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